Born to a working-class Irish migrant family in Birkenhead, Cheshire, O'Grady moved to London in the late 1970s, there working as a peripatetic care officer for Camden Council. It was here in 1978 that he developed his drag act, basing the character of Lily Savage upon traits found among female relatives. Touring Northern England as part of drag mime duo, the Playgirls, he eventually went solo as a stand-up comedian. Performing as Savage for eight years at a South London gay pub, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT), he gained a popular following among the city's gay community and used his character to speak out for LGBT rights. After being nominated for a 1992 Perrier Award, he attracted mainstream attention and made various television, radio, and theatrical appearances. As Savage, he presented morning chat show The Big Breakfast (1995–96), game show Blankety Blank (1997–02) and comedy series Lily Live! (2000–01), earning various awards and becoming a well known public figure.
Seeking to diversify his career away from Savage, O'Grady starred in BBC sitcom Eyes Down (2003–04) and presented two travel documentaries for ITV. In 2004, he began presenting ITV's daytime chat show The Paul O'Grady Show, which proved a hit with audiences. After the network refused to transfer creative control of the series to O'Grady's production company, Olga TV, in 2006 he defected to rival Channel 4, where the show was rebranded as The New Paul O'Grady Show and ran until 2009. O'Grady subsequently presented a late night ITV show, Paul O'Grady Live (2010–11) as well as Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs (2012–) and Paul O'Grady's Animal Orphans (2014–), while presenting BBC Radio 2's Paul O'Grady on the Wireless and publishing a three-volume autobiography.
Paul O'Grady and Brendan Murphy
Paul O'Grady, MBE, is an English comedian, television presenter, actor, writer and radio disc-jockey and BAFTA TV Award winner, best known for his comedic drag queen character, Lily Savage. His long-term lover and business partner was Brendan Murphy, who died 5 days before O'Grady's 50th birthday, after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. Now, Paul shares his life with Andre Portasio, a ballet dancer and teacher. The couple actually met through Brendan in the last years of his life.
Left to right, ANDRE PORTASIO and PAUL O'GRADY at a reception hosted by the Friends of the Castle of Mey held at the Goring Hotel, Beeston Place, London on 22nd May 2012
O'Grady's alter-ego, Lily Savage
Although O'Grady has been criticised for his risqué humour and for publicly espousing leftist criticism of the government, he is a popular and highly acclaimed figure in Britain. He has received a variety of awards, among them honorary degrees and an MBE in the 2008 Birthday Honours for services to entertainment.
In 1974, with his friend Diane Jansen, O'Grady had a daughter, Sharyn. O'Grady's grandson, Abel, was born in December 2006, with a granddaughter being born in December 2009. From 1977 to 2005, he was in a marriage of convenience with Portuguese lesbian Teresa Fernandes, although was not in a relationship with her. His long-term lover and business partner was Brendan Frank Murphy (4 March 1956 – 9 June 2005). Five days before O'Grady's 50th birthday, Paul's closest friend, manager and former lover, Brendan Murphy, died at Charing Cross Hospital after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.
"I'd lost my best mate, someone who'd been in my life for 25 years and saw me through the days when I was lucky to earn #50 for standing on a beer crate in the corner of a pub telling jokes. Murph and I were like brothers - joined at the hip, thick as thieves.
"It transcended any sexual relationship we'd had. This was a partnership. A double act, Emma Peel and Steed, Laurel and Hardy.
"We were both 49, barely able to believe what we'd achieved - I'd just won a BAFTA for the Paul O'Grady Show - and then suddenly bang, he's gone."
He buried his friend in a local 12th-century church near his farmhouse, set in 200 acres of Kent countryside. Before the funeral, he scrubbed and polished the churchyard and then filled it with wild flowers.
"I came back here after the service," he says, "and howled for three days. Then I let go. Now if I find a reminder I don't weep. I just have some quiet reflection. I still can't believe it, sometimes I wake up and think he's on holiday. Then I'll go somewhere we went to six months ago and I feel like an old ghost."
Now, Paul shares his life with Andre Portasio, a ballet dancer and teacher. The couple actually met through Brendan in the last years of his life.
“It just crept up on us,” he says. “It took us both by surprise when we were least expecting it. Andre pops in and out of my book because it starts in the present day and then goes back in time.”
Known to many friends as "Lily" or "Lil", O'Grady is publicly known for having had many high profile and celebrity friends, including the politician Mo Mowlam, actresses Amanda Mealing and Barbara Windsor, comedienne Brenda Gilhooly and singer Cilla Black.
O'Grady divides his time between his Central London flat and his rural Kentish farmhouse. There he grows organic fruit and vegetables, and a variety of herbs, having a keen interest in herbalism. A lifelong animal lover, as a child O'Grady kept rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, a ferret and a rat as pets; he has commented that his mother thought him "a bit weird" as a result. At his Kentish farm, he owned sheep, pigs, goats, donkeys, ducks, chickens, geese, ferrets, bats, mice, and dogs. Two of O'Grady's pet dogs became well known to the British public through appearances on The Paul O'Grady Show; the first was Buster Elvis Savage, a Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise cross. A rescue dog, Buster was euthanised in November 2009 after a struggle with cancer. O'Grady dedicated the second volume of his autobiography to Buster, describing him as "The greatest canine star since Lassie." A second dog, the Cairn Terrier Olga, also attracted attention; in 2013 it was revealed that she was undergoing chemotherapy as treatment for cancer.
Publicly known for his "trenchant opinions", O'Grady is critical of the British Royal Family, having been raised by his father to view them as social parasites; the exception in his mind was Diana, Princess of Wales, whom he came to respect for her charitable work with those living with HIV/AIDS. In April 2013, O'Grady expressed his support for the Labour Party, championing Labour leader Ed Miliband as a better candidate for UK Prime Minister than Conservative incumbent David Cameron. He lambasted the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government then in power, describing them as "absolutely disgusting. They have no idea what the common working man and woman are doing. They are not in touch with the working classes. They have led privileged lives – they've had public schools and have never been on the shop floor."
O'Grady has supported philanthropic causes supporting carers. In 2012, O'Grady became a celebrity ambassador of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home after recording the first series of ITV programme Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs. In 2013, he joined the Pedigree Feeding Brighter Futures campaign with Amanda Holden, which aims to give a million meals to rescue dogs nationwide.
In 2003, O'Grady was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy, and, in 2006, was listed by The Independent at number 32 in their 101 most influential gay people in Britain.
At My Mother's Knee...: and other low joints by Paul O'Grady
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Transworld Publishers (October 1, 2009)
Amazon: At My Mother's Knee...: and other low joints
Amazon Kindle: At My Mother's Knee...: and other low joints
In his own uniquely acid tongue, Paul O'Grady traces the hilarious tales of life in Irish Catholic Birkenhead that took him from a virtuous altar-boy ("my first drag") to Britain's best loved entertainer. It's a life that includes, varyingly, stints in an abbatoir, as a social worker, in a high-class Mayfair brothel, and traipsing down to London to chase his dreams. By 23, Paul O'Grady had been a father, husband, drag queen, gay lover, divorcee, and degenerate. He did it all with a smile on his face, making a mental note to register the whip-smart one-liners that would later inform his star-studded path from the fringes of comedy to the heart of the British establishment, first as his own brilliant comic creation Lily Savage, then, triumphantly, as himself. Paul's remarkable childhood and early life is littered with a dizzying cast-list of rogues, rascals, lovers, fighters, saints, and sinners. Oh, and one iconic bus conductress. Told with pathos, love, empathy, and naturally, biting humor, the story of Paul O'Grady is that of everyman, everywoman, and inevitably, every drag act ever. He has been rich and poor, posh and common, straight and gay. He has mixed with stars and whores and all that's in between, slyly spotting the similarity between them all. His amazing and riveting life story reminds us that there is, when all is said and done, a bit of savage in all of us.
This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/4609854.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.